Growing strawberries in hot climates with aeroponics

Philippines: "We reduced the cost of cooling by just cooling the plant roots”

Strawberry production is now made possible in the lowlands and hot areas of the Philippines through the vertical aeroponic system and root zone cooling technology, innovated by a biosystems engineer from Muñoz, Nueva Ecija. 

“The root zone cooling or the group heat exchanger system is being used for cooling buildings in other countries like Europe. I came up with the idea, ‘Why can’t we use it for plant production?’. So, I conceptualized the idea of using aeroponics,” Pascual said. The production is housed in a 195-square-meter greenhouse in Barangay Licaong and a 72-square-meter land in CLSU. 

Pascual said that it is very expensive to cool down a whole greenhouse to grow temperate crops in a hot environment like the Philippines, as strawberries are normally grown in Baguio or colder environments. 

“We were able to reduce the cost of cooling the system or the whole greenhouse by just cooling down the roots of the plants,” Pascual added. 

The engineer explained that the technology itself can supply the right nutrients such as potassium to make the strawberries sweeter, and the light intensity in the lowlands also plays a big role. “The light intensity or the sunlight is much more available in the lowlands than in the highlands. The temperature has something to do with it. The higher the temperature exposure of the plants, the higher the sugar accumulation,” he added. 

Root zone cooling technology was developed and launched in order to cultivate heat-sensitive crops. According to Pascual, these are crops such as strawberries, lettuce, and other high-value crops that are only produced in a cold climate. 

“The principle is they introduce root zone cooling alone without cooling the canopy of the plant. So, in this scheme we reduce the cost of cooling, rather than making the whole room cool down or the entire greenhouse,” Pascual said. 

“So, what we do is we only cool down the root zone of the plants in a way cooling down the whole plants. So, in this scheme we can grow heat-sensitive even in a hot and humid environment like the Philippines,” he added. 

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